Agilent Tests Drug Markets

What in the name of David Packard is going on at Agilent? The company today announced that it has acquired privately held SynPro Corp., the owner of a contract manufacturing facility that supplies pharmaceutical ingredients. (Financial details were not disclosed.)

The facility manufactures short synthetic DNA and RNA molecules that are becoming more important to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries as components of drugs for use in clinical trials. With the acquisition, Agilent can now develop analytical methods and processes, among other services, Agilent said in a press release.

Why SynPro, and moreover, why the move into the drug industry? “Agilent has identified RNA synthesis as an excellent growth opportunity,” said John Eaton, Agilent vice president of corporate development. “Acquiring SynPro is a strategic move for us. We are gaining first-rate manufacturing capabilities and deep expertise that will open the door for Agilent to an exciting new market.”

The combined RNA and DNA synthesis market is approximately $700 million in 2006, with anticipated growth in the range of 10 to 20% per year, Agilent said.

Well, well. In the past year Agilent has exited some longtime business such as semiconductor products in order to concentrate on test and measurement. That reduced the company’s exposure to the volatile though lucrative tech industry. This latest move seems on closer inspection to be in line with the company’s attempt to broaden its customer base, and doesn’t seem wholly out of line with the test and measurement spiel. Yet the drug industry is highly cyclical too, and I have to believe that if Agilent thinks it is escaping the stock price rollercoaster, it will be sadly mistaken.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow